Learn to cook
No matter how simple or complex it is, there is no better time to learn to cook something for (or with) family or friends. You may even create a new recipe or twist on a favourite that could become one you could make a Christmas tradition!
Think of the benefits
Cooking does not always come easy for some, others have a love/hate relationship with the kitchen, so making something you enjoy eating, is the first step to making it enjoyable.
Cooking is one of the oldest human activities but one which is not always necessary to our survival in our modern world as we have so many other people/factories to cook for us. Unfortunately, it's not doing our health any favours and sadly, preparing meals at home is on the decline, with the standout indicator being lack of motivation (1)
With Christmas around the corner I cannot think of any better motivation to prepare a meal and start forming new habits which will also benefit your health during the festive season.
Creating, preparing and sharing something with others has been shown to have positive psychological effects that make us more inclined to repeat the practice. It comes with an altruistic sense of giving, while participating and sharing provides a sense of contentment when the meal can be eaten and enjoyed with others (2)
Mindfulness, Self care and Confidence
Cooking creates mindfulness. When you are in the kitchen, your senses are heightened.
* Touch - To feel if foods are ripe, cooked or still raw, amounts of ingredients eg; pinch of salt, textures of food and it's also a fun tactile experience!
* Sight - Observe colours, ripeness, amounts required and what the ingredients are doing while cooking.
* Hearing - Listening to the sounds of food cooking, timers and communication when cooking with others.
* Smell - Smelling aromas for freshness or the melding together of ingredients to create tantalising and mouth watering scents.
* Taste - For seasoning, flavour and ultimately a delicious end product.
Save eating out for celebrations and as a rare treat. Studies have shown the emotional reinforcement from eating meals at home is stronger than eating out (3) and you will appreciate the experience a lot more. By cooking yourself you are able to control the ingredients, sodium and sugar content and increase more nutritious foods into the meal. Try adding one new vegetable or wholefood ingredient each time you cook, this will help you become familiar with a wider variety of foods and this in turn benefits your health and well being.
Really, when you think about it, cooking can also be a form of exercise as you are moving throughout the process. Depending on what you are cooking and if you are doing things manually, it can really be lots of fun and quite a workout!!
The more you cook, (and remember - keep it simple to begin) the more your confidence will grow. As with anything, it comes down to practising, learning along the way and most of all having fun.
Key steps to make cooking your own meals at home include:
If you have kids, get them involved in the process and guide them on what they can do to help. Put aside a short amount of time, one day each week, to work out what your weekly meals will consist of, ingredients needed, whether the meals can be re purposed for another meal or even frozen for a lazy night when you need a break. Planning is key if you are new to the process.
Ease of preparation
Look for recipes that you can cook in one pan/dish - think risottos, tray bakes, frittata, casseroles/stews/soups, stroganoff, roasts with vegetables, salads, Mexican beans...there really are so many healthy meals you can make that require very little effort!
Grow your own ingredients
There's nothing more satisfying than growing and eating your own produce. Mediterraneans are always including physical activity in their day to day routines. This includes gardening, which also has the added benefit of relieving stress - so you really are getting bang for your buck when you decide to sow some seeds!!
Cooking creates happiness and healthier eating habits
That sense of accomplishment when you get to enjoy something you have cooked is never lost, even when it comes to the most inexperienced cooks. Even if it doesn't turn out like the recipe picture, the act of making it yourself is the achievement. Laugh and learn at the things that didn't go right - cooking is not constrained - have fun with it!!
Laugh and learn at the things that didn't go right - cooking is not constrained - have fun with it!!
So venture into the kitchen or even the use the BBQ this Christmas to express yourself, relieve stress, strengthen connections, build memories, provide sustenance, create mindfulness, improve your health and begin a love affair with cooking - who knows, you may even enjoy it!
Enjoy real food xx
1. Mills, S., White, M., Wrieden, W., Brown, H., Stead, M. and Adams, J. (2017). Home food preparation practices, experiences and perceptions: A qualitative interview study with photo-elicitation. PLOS ONE, 12(8), p.e0182842.
2. Yiengprugsawan, V., Banwell, C., Takeda, W., Dixon, J., Seubsman, S. and Sleigh, A. (2015). Health, Happiness and Eating Together: What Can a Large Thai Cohort Study Tell Us?. Global Journal of Health Science, 7(4).
3. Lu, J., Huet, C. and Dubé, L. (2011). Emotional reinforcement as a protective factor for healthy eating in home settings. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(1), pp.254-261.